Blackhawks

Recipe to fix broken Blackhawks must come from within

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AP

Recipe to fix broken Blackhawks must come from within

For one brief 20-minute segment, the Blackhawks tapped back into their old ways, scoring at will and looking dominant on home ice en route to a 4-2 edge after the first period. Then the second period began and the Blackhawks regressed, falling into the bad habits that have plagued them this season.

“That's a tough lead to give up, especially to get no points and give up seven goals against,” Patrick Kane said. “Obviously a disappointing last couple periods.

“I don't know if we thought it was going to be easy the rest of the night or what.”

It wasn’t that long ago that the Blackhawks, with the combination of talent, work ethic and trust in each other, made it look easy. They were a stoic group, unruffled in the face of any issue that came up on the ice. Losing? They’d find a way to come back. Leading? They held onto the edge. When one teammate was struggling, someone else was there to pick up the slack. You’re not seeing much of that right now. When something goes wrong it usually snowballs, the confidence wanes and in the case of Sunday night, a seemingly strong 4-1 lead evaporates and turns into a 7-5 victory for a New Jersey Devils team that wasn’t messing around.

The last time the Blackhawks looked confident and in control from start to finish was their second game of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a 5-1 victory.

“We shouldn’t think it’s easy. It’s a tough league now. You just have to look at the standings. Everyone is very close, points are valuable every night,” Patrick Sharp said. “I know what [Kane] is saying: sometimes when a lot of goals are going in like that it changes the dynamic of the game. But we have a team that’s been around long enough to know certain situations and it’s tough to give that many up.”

As much as this is not a happy synopsis this is also not a sky-is-falling diatribe. The Blackhawks are not lacking in talent; they’re lacking in finish. Since you have the former you can figure out a way to get the latter. But the Blackhawks need to start turning the corner now and to do that they have to remember what worked for them the past few successful seasons. Be strong from start to finish, trust the guy next to you will do his job and focus on doing the same yourself. Everyone, from the youngest to most veteran, has to do more.

There’s not one magic move or decision that’s going to change the Blackhawks’ fortunes right now. No one call-up from Rockford is going to alter the course by himself. Same for any trade that they would consider between now and the trade deadline, which is months away. As Sharp said following Sunday’s game, “I’ve been through it 1,000 times.” Many of his teammates have, too.

The Blackhawks were reminded once again on Sunday that nothing comes easy. When they were at their best it took a lot of hard work to make it look easy. They’ll have to work that much harder now.

Blackhawks are one of NHL's hottest teams, but have they turned a corner?

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USA Today

Blackhawks are one of NHL's hottest teams, but have they turned a corner?

For the first two and a half months of the season, the Blackhawks were battling through major inconsistency issues. They had won more than two games in a row just once and lost at least three straight five times.

And yet somehow, the Blackhawks still found themselves afloat in the Western Conference playoff race. 

But the tide has finally started to turn.

Since Dec. 15, the Blackhawks are 12-5-0 and have the fourth-most standings points in the NHL over that span with 24. They’ve also won a season-long five consecutive games and have a plus-13 goal differential during their winning streak.

Now, there are certainly some statistical trends that are unsustainable over the long term that could result in a market correction. Their on-ice shooting percentage (13.0) and save percentage (94.7) at 5-on-5 play during their winning streak is a combined 107.7, which is the second-highest in the league over that stretch.

But the Blackhawks are playing a brand of hockey that will win them games more often than not going forward: The top guys are producing, the depth scoring is there, the defensive structure has tightened up and the goaltending remains strong.

"No question,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said on whether he feels this type of performance will continue to lead to positive results. “We are being rewarded. There's no reason to get away from it. It's paying off and the more it gets into our mentality and our identity that this is who we are, and we'll do this no matter what, it's a habit and you don't think twice about it. We still need to work at preparing to approach the game that way, but when we do it's easier for you and you'll set up your teammates as well."

Perhaps the most notable part of the winning streak is the fact the Blackhawks look like a team that's on the same page after making an in-season schematic adjustment in November, on top of dealing with an array of key injuries. The Blackhawks stayed the course and aren't wavering from their game which we saw them do earlier in the season, whether they're playing with a lead or a deficit. 

Take Sunday's 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets as an example. The Blackhawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, gave up a late goal in the second period that cut their lead to 2-1, but punched back in the third period by scoring twice to pull ahead 4-1, which iced the game.

One month ago, the Blackhawks would probably find a way to squander that two-goal lead. That hasn't been the case over the last month and the Blackhawks are hoping this becomes part of their DNA.

"We're finally starting to full buy-in to the system," Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner said. "Full effort level, doing the right things at the right times. ... Everyone's just doing their job, and we're starting to feel [that] doing those things gets you rewarded and everyone keeps doing it. We're doing well, but we've just got to keep doing it because every point is crucial."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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Jonathan Toews named NHL's Third Star of the week

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USA Today

Jonathan Toews named NHL's Third Star of the week

The Blackhawks (24-20-6, 54 points) are on fire, having won five straight games to vault them back into the Western Conference playoff picture.

Jonathan Toews has been key to that stretch, and on Monday, he was recognized for his recent stellar play by being named the NHL's Third Star of the week. Alex Ovechkin and Elvis Merzlikins nabbed the top two spots:

In four games between Jan. 14 and Jan. 19 (all Blackhawks wins, of course), Toews led the NHL in points with nine (three goals, six assists). And none of them were empty. Among myriad highlights was this game-winning slingshot to beat the Senators 3-2 in overtime to kick off the week (the 15th overtime game-winner of his career):

His two-goal, two-assist outing against the Maple Leaf days later was pretty fun, too:

Toews rides a six-game point streak into Tuesday night's bout with the Florida Panthers. If he extends it, he'll become the sixth player in Blackhawks history to reach 800 career points. 

The milestones and accolades are piling up for The Captain and, crucially, they're translating in the win column for the Blackhawks.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.